Archive for the ‘State Parks’ Category

Tears of a Mountain

The Abandoned Mount Beacon Railway

Written by: Wilk

Photographs: Lassie

Most people like to go the beach on their vacations. Somewhere hot, where there’s a soft ocean breeze and they put little umbrellas in the drinks. I am not one of those people. I don’t like sand. It’s coarse, and rough, and irritating. And it gets everywhere. (References, we’ve got them.) Personally, I prefer the mountains. Always have. Always will. Whether it be winter or summer, they are my favorite places to visit. There is just something so breathtaking and awe-inspiring about them. I’ve been climbing them my whole life. From my time in the Scouts, up until now. There is just no better feeling than reaching a beautiful mountain top after a long hike. By the way, this will be our 100th post here at Abandoned Wonders, so be warned. There will be a lot of reminiscing moving forward. While vacationing in New York, we decided to climb one of the local mountains – Mount Beacon. Little did we know at the time, this place holds a story and a secret that sets her apart from most mountaintops.

It was once known officially as the Mount Beacon Incline Railway, located in the absolutely beautiful town of Beacon, New York. First established in 1902, the railway was a very popular tourist attraction for much of its heyday. If you have ever rode Mount Washington’s Cog Railway in New Hampshire, this establishment was very similar….just on a much smaller scale. A trolley system ferried guests up the picturesque mountaintop to an old fashioned casino, luxurious hotel, and a gorgeous view of the Hudson River Valley. For decades, this place was a staple of the local community. But as we all know, time stands still for no one. Eventually, financial issues caused the downfall of the railway. And while she went out of business in the 1970’s, she was also added to the list of National Historical landmarks. Unfortunately, not much still stands of the attraction after a vicious case of alleged arson destroyed most of the buildings atop of the mountain. Now, all that remains of this former hotspot are the memories of what once was.

While on our trip to the Hudson River Valley, we decided to take a stop at the nearby Mount Beacon. Having just toured Bannerman Castle the day before, we thought it would be an appropriate follow-up. At first glances, this place appears to be like any other mountain hike. But if you take a closer look, there is so much more than meets the eye. The old train tracks still run down the side of the mountain, like a trail of tears from the former summit. About half-way up, a few old train trolleys rust into oblivion. Honestly, the train tracks are hard to photograph, due to the large amount of vegetation growing around them. A trail of rotting utility polls lead upward like a twisted trail of breadcrumbs. Atop of the mountain, the old wheelhouse lies in ruin. The brick hull of the building crumbles, whilst the heavy machinery inside is actually in pretty decent shape. Minus the myriad of graffiti, of course. But the hotel and casino are long gone, unfortunate victims of the fire that once consumed this lonely mountain. Funny enough, you can even get a great glimpse of Bannerman Castle itself from up here.

I wish I could say that there was more to see here. But this is definitely a piece for all the hikers. And trust me when I say, this was one Hell of a hike. But it also had one Hell of a payoff. It seems the old railway has finally met her doom at the top of Mount Beacon. While there are movements to restore it to its former glory, there is regrettably not much left to save here. The old train tracks are slowly being eaten alive by the forest around them. Where the hotel and casino once stood are now nothing more than ruins. The wheelhouse has become a target for the local vandals. And yet, the view from the top of the pinnacle’s highest peak is still bloody breathtaking. That, my friends, is one thing that will always set this place apart. The Hudson River Valley is truly one the most amazing places I have ever seen. And there is no better place to see it than atop this amazing mountain. Though time seems to march on without the Mount Beacon Railway, nobody will ever be able to take that away.

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” –Greg Child

 

New Day’s Dawn

The Abandoned Scott Tower

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

It’s a new day. It’s a new year. It’s a new time. The dawn of 2019 is upon us. Funny enough, it never really feels any different than the previous year to me. At least, not right away that is. The only thing that really tells you its a new year is having to change the date whenever you sign a check. We make our fancy resolutions. We get drunk at our New Year’s Eve parties. We like to think things will be different this time around. But some things never really change. No matter how much we want them to. That’s why I’ve never been such a big fan of the whole “New Year” concept. Life changes faster than the weather around here. But I never needed a calendar to tell me that. But enough of the negativity. Happy New Year everyone! We usually go inactive during this season, but plans change. With the impending viciousness of the New England winter upon us, we took what might be our one last chance until Spring to have our first investigation of 2019. And this time, things were definitely a little bit different.

It gets me every time when I find a place like this having never heard of it before. I actually found out about it on reddit of all places. This is Scott Memorial Tower in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Standing atop Craft Hill, the tower was first built in 1942. The name Scott Tower was bestowed upon this place in honor of local hero Colonel Walter Scott. As part of a venture to build a new park for the area, picnic tables and other amenities sprouted up alongside the tower over the years. With two lookout points, the tower provided a beautiful view of Western Massachusetts. Thus it became one of the jewels of the local community. But this time of prosperity was not to last. A bypass of local highways ended up costing the park in a big way. Attendance steadily began to wain as her former patrons moved on to newer parks. And by the 1980’s, she had fallen into complete despair. There have been several attempts at a revival, but none have come to fruition. Ever since, the once grand tower now stands lost and lonely before her fallen kingdom.

It was only a few days after the New Year that we decided to visit Scott Tower. Being close by, and what was supposed to be good weather (we’ll get to that in a bit), we thought it would be a good time to check out this mysterious place. It was a bit of a spur of a moment type visit. We have explored a lot of places in the Western Massachusetts area over the last year. But this one was a bit different. Located in the now defunct Anniversary Hills park, the tower lies down a forgotten road in a quiet wood. The only other people we encountered on our journey were two elderly women and their three yappy dogs. Interestingly, the best way to the tower is through the now flourishing Community Field. Follow the old path under the highway, and you’ll find the tower. There is even some graffiti on the pavement to give you exact directions. Which was nice. Skeletons of picnic tables still haunt the forest. A once elegant staircase leads up the hill. The old stone spire looms like a ghostly shadow out of the forest. The grey skies provided an elegant backdrop for this ghostly monolith. But the large cellular tower nearby is a bit of a distraction.

I can honestly tell you that Scott Tower is in rough shape. The structure itself is still quite solid. Everything else, however, has fallen into shadow. It was deathly silent here. There was broken glass, garbage, and all sorts of horribly gross shit all over the ground. I’m talking used condoms, hypodermic needles, and bags full of God knows what. Almost every inch of reachable stone has been coated in graffiti. The staircase to the top of the tower is still open though. 21 year old me would’ve jumped at the chance to climb this thing. 27 year old me, however, had motion sickness by the time he reached the top. Seriously. The path to the pinnacle is narrow as Hell, and just seems to go on forever. Watch your step, too. Some steps are broken, and some are just plain gone. I had to lean on the railing the entire way up. There is one stop on the way up which serves as a nice reprieve. Plus its super dark inside, so bring a flashlight. When we finally did reach the top, it started snowing. Like crazy. So we were stuck up there for awhile just watching it fall. But on the brighter side, the view of the Mount Tom valley is just bloody breathtaking.

As far as we know, Scott Tower is completely legal to visit. There is even a sign on the front wall of the tower reading “Enter at Own Risk.” Heed this warning. Perhaps that is one of the contributing factors to its current state of decay. I highly recommend it to anyone in search of adventure. Just please be safe. The area is allegedly home to some rather unsavory characters. Especially at night. And climbing the tower itself is a bit of a beast, especially if you’re 6’3″ like myself. Always watch your step. One thing I will never forget about this place are the robins. It’s rare to see them during this time of year. And yet a flock of six robins followed us through our entire journey to and from the tower. They never made any noise. They just all sat in the trees and watched us. Curious, isn’t it? Given that robins are the harbingers of Spring around here, maybe this was a good omen. Obviously, winter has just begun. But maybe the presence of Connecticut’s state bird is the sign of some sort of New Day. We’ll see what happens.

Flight of Dragons

The Ruins of Bannerman Castle

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

We have been doing this urban exploration thing for over five years now. We have explored places all over New England. We’ve seen the abandoned hospitals of Connecticut, the derelict fortresses of Rhode Island, the lost ski resorts of Vermont, and the forgotten landmarks of Massachusetts. New England has always been our base of operation. But this past autumn, we finally headed west to the Empire State. New York is a place that we have visited a few times lately on movie business, mostly in the city. But we had never done any exploring there. Technically, it’s almost closer to us than a lot of the places we’ve already visited. For some reason, it was just a place that seemed to have evaded us over the years. And so, for our eight year anniversary we finally decided that it was time to see what the great state of New York had to offer. Our first destination? Bannerman Castle.

Of all the places in New York, it was the Hudson River Valley that caught our attention the most. Bannerman Castle is kind of a local legend in these parts. Oddly enough, the local inn we stayed at on our trip had dozens of paintings of the castle all throughout their foyer. Located on Pollepel Island, smack dab in the middle of the roaring Hudson River, the castle was first built in 1901 by industrialist Francis Bannerman IV. Making his fortune in the scrap business, Bannerman is unofficially known as “The Father of Gun Collecting.” When he was prohibited from housing his large stockpile of ammunition in New York City, Bannerman moved his base of operation upriver to the nearby island.Though the main castle was built as a housing facility for his vast arms and munitions arsenal, the island was also the vacation home of the Bannerman family. Following Francis’s death in 1918, the castle went through a series of unfortunate events including fires, accidents, and architectural collapses. The island was named off-limits in 1969.

Since its closure, Bannerman Castle has slowly deteriorated. It’s once grand presence now haunts the Hudson River Valley. But in recent years, the local community has come together to bring it back to life. Through the Bannerman Castle Trust, certain buildings have been restored and the castle itself stands in a state of arrested decay. Much like Chester-Hudson Quarry in Massachusetts, the castle is maintained just enough to keep it from collapsing. This allows people from all over the world to experience its sheer beauty. The castle was even featured in the most recent Transformers movie. The trust offers tours of the island in the summer and fall via ferry or by kayak (for the summer only). We were lucky enough to catch one of the final ferry tours of the season. Taking a small boat through the roaring Hudson River, the castle looms like a mythical giant in the distance. It beckons all weary travels towards its once rich gateways.

Honestly, the castle is damn near awe-inspiring. Against the gorgeous backdrop of the Hudson River Valley around it, the faded red palace looks like something out of a fairy tale. It almost looks as if it were hewn from the very mountains by great giants of old. While the front of the castle still looks amazing, the back is in much worse shape. It looks like it could collapse at any moment. To create a barrier for his island, Francis Bannerman sunk several large barges around it topped with small stone towers. A few of these still peak out from the river’s roaring current. Unfortunately, seeing this place is much more tourism that it is exploration. We were on the island for a grand total of about an hour, and did not get to see the castle as up close as I would have liked. Guides ferry visitors to and fro across the island like sheep. Nothing against them or the Bannerman Castle Trust, I just would’ve preferred seeing the place on our own as opposed to in a group. This was definitely a very different experience than we are used to.

I almost didn’t write about this place for our site. I don’t really know why. It just didn’t really fit in with what we usually cover. Like I said before, this place is much more in line with Dark Tourism than it is urban exploration. But Bannerman Castle truly is amazing to see. I’d highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a little adventure. Plus you get to go on a boat ride through the Hudson River. Even if you don’t take the island tour, seeing it from the banks of the river or the top of nearby Mount Beacon is bloody breathtaking. Much like Hearthstone Castle, it feels like something from a dream. Yet as awesome as Bannerman Castle is, I couldn’t help but imagine what it must’ve been like during its heyday. Walking across the island was just as cool as it was somber. The dragons that once ruled this magical place have long since flown off. And yet, somehow, the castle has captured the hearts and minds of the local community. She may never again rise to her former glory. Yet with a little help, she still stands tall.

If you are interested in visiting the castle, please check out the Bannerman Castle Trust’s website here – https://www.bannermancastle.org

Hail to the King

The Abandoned Hearthstone Castle

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Happy Fall, everyone. It’s finally here. The leaves are changing colors. The nights are getting colder. The mornings are growing darker. And the scary movies are starting to pop up on television. Though it always feels like such a passing season, each moment of Fall comes with its own personal flair. In some ways, it just might be my personal favorite season. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. This one, however, in particular is special for us. Not only was it our eight year anniversary together, but we finally made it to a place that has haunted us for years. We have made many plans to go see it at many points during our six years of urban exploring. Yet somehow, especially with its looming potential demolition, we never quite made it to this hot-spot. Plus practically every urban explorer in the area has covered this place at least once. This is Hearthstone Castle, a true legend in these parts. If you are reading this, you have most likely heard of or visited this place. And now, after all these years, she finally makes an appearance here on our site.

The history of Hearthstone Castle is brief, but checkered. Located in Danbury, Connecticut, the castle was built in 1895 to a wealthy local family. For years she served as a residence and a summer home for her keepers, much like other places we have covered including Case Cabin and Bannerman Castle. Materials to create and furnish the castle were flown in from around the globe, helping to make this place a palace of luxury. She changed ownership and name many times over the years, before finally being sold to the town of Danbury in 1987. It was here that things began to take a dark turn for the castle. Though it was declared a National Historic Place, the property rapidly began to fall into disrepair. Nobody seemed quite sure what to do with the castle. Many proposals have come and gone with what would be next for the old castle even as nature slowly began to strike back. Today she sits completely abandoned, and has become a favorite place amongst the local urban explorer community.

We really weren’t planning on stopping at Hearthstone. Coming home from New York, we saw that we would be going straight through Danbury. It was a nice day out, and we really didn’t have anything else planned for our journey. And thus, we decided to stop and see the fabled castle. As a hiker and a hunter, finding Hearthstone was disappointing. You park your car. You walk into the woods. And there it is. There is no long hike. There is no hunt through the woods. Its just sitting right there, waiting for you. It was all just too damn easy. I can see why it is a favorite for so many explorers, since you don’t have to do much exploring to find it. And yet, the castle is simply breathtaking. The old stone architecture is unmatched. It is very reminiscent of the nearby Gillette Castle. Birds chirp from the ramparts. A fox scurries amongst the underbrush. And remarkably, not a single NO TRESPASSING or KEEP OUT sign was in sight. A couple random fences still stand, but other than that, the castle is just there for the taking.

I can honestly say that the years have not been kind to Hearthstone Castle. Though her tough stone facade remains unflinching, her interiors have been truly disemboweled. Everything has just been totally gutted. The floors are all gone. And those that still stand are shaky as all Hell. Broken glass and splinters of wood are all over the ground. A few beams from the higher levels still bisect the structure. Graffiti and vandalism runs rampant across the grounds, except for in the higher to reach places. Wild vines and vegetation grow in canopies across the walls and porches. The once great walls that were once occupied by the highest of society are now home to the wrath of nature and vandalism. If your tall, like myself, this place can be a little tricky to navigate. There are a lot of tight spots between the walls, the vegetation, and the debris. I can honestly see why this place has been scheduled for demolition. And yet, through it all, she still remains steadfastly beautiful.

 It was honestly really hard to tear myself away from Hearthstone Castle. I spent a long time just staring at it well after we had finished exploring, trying to take in every tiny detail. It just has a certain magic to it. I just couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting more. When we finally did leave, I had to tell myself not to look back. This was genuinely hard to do. It was sad to think that this was the first, and will probably be the last time that I see the castle. With every year that passes, somebody of importance almost always says that it will be Hearthstone’s final year. Fences are put up. Plans are made. Yet nothing ever comes of it. But I guess that is just the brevity of existence. We’ve got to enjoy life one day at a time. When the time to say goodbye finally comes, it’s important not to look back. And one day Hearthstone Castle will fall, whether it be by the teeth of a bulldozer or the slow decay of time. But no matter what the future may hold for this magical place, it will always be a legend.

Off the Beaten Path

The Abandoned Rutland Prison Camp

Written by: Wilk

Photographs by: Lassie

Greetings, everyone. We’re back at it. Did you miss us? Of course you did. Why wouldn’t you? After a very long and very shitty winter (it’s even snowing right now as I write this piece…in April), we finally got to do some exploring last weekend for the first time since mid November of last year. It was a bit of a hike, but it was quite an adventure. Western Massachusetts has kind of become the great untapped resource for us. I keep finding more and more places up here for us to explore, yet we never really found the time to check them out. When a clear weekend finally opened up, we couldn’t resist the chance to do some exploring. The choice was between this place or Hearthstone Castle for us. Though Hearthstone seems really cool, I feel like everyone covers it. This place does not quite get the attention it deserves. Plus, it is allegedly haunted. So we decided to pay it a visit. Buried deep in the woods, at the edge (hopefully) of winter, this is the abandoned Rutland Prison Camp.

I’m going to be honest. Finding any history on this place was difficult. All people could really give me on the history of this place was that it was a prison camp in the early twentieth century and that’s it’s been abandoned for a long time. Not even the official website helped. I tried all of my usual sources on this one: YouTube, Google, Reddit, etc. Nobody seemed to have much history on this strange place. Luckily, I was able to find one site with some info. So thank you, atlasobscura.com. They really helped out. Apparently the prison camp was built to house minor offenders during the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. The guests of the prison were usually there for non-violent crimes such as public intoxication or taxation troubles. Inmates would do farm-work by day, and return to their minimum security lodgings by night. As the years went on, the camp slowly grew larger and larger. But it was abruptly abandoned in 1934 due to complications with the local water supply.

The abandoned prison camp is located in the heart of what is now Rutland State Park in Rutland, Massachusetts. It’s a nice little park, with some very picturesque views. During the off-season, the road to the prison camp is closed to traffic. But that didn’t matter to us, because we would’ve walked in anyway. If you follow anything we post here, you should know by now how much we love to hike. Also during the off-season, you don’t have to pay to park. Which was nice. I really hate having to pay to park. It was a nice day out, and there were only a couple other cars at the park when we pulled up. It was roughly two miles through the wondrous New England woods until we came upon the ruins of the abandoned camp. The farther we hiked, the more anxious I got that we weren’t going to find the ruins. But fear not. Follow the trail, and you’ll find them. Red squirrels scampered through the trees. Wild ducks quacked through the air. And we strangely didn’t encounter many other hikers.

The main trail of the park leads you right up the ruins of Rutland Prison Camp. There are three main structures still standing, all in relatively close proximity to each other. There is easy access to all three of them. Two are smaller/more compact buildings. While the main hall is much larger, and very dark inside. Much like many older cement building from the past, they show little signs of wear and tear. Besides the colorful plethora of graffiti of course. Each structure has its own unique feel to it. Darkness lurks inside, and the colorful murals of spray paint give this place a strange sense of urban beauty. There are underground tunnels that are easily accessible, but we regrettably were unable to enter them. With the snow storm the week prior, the tunnels were flooded with several feet of water. None the less, this place was very cool to explore. Clearly, though, the prison camp is a hot spot for partying and general shenanigans. There was a lot of litter inside the main hall. But this is nothing out of the ordinary for a place like this.

The abandoned Rutland Prison Camp is completely legal to visit. So if hiking and urban exploring is your thing, I would highly recommend it. We had heard plenty of rumors of this place being haunted. Speaking for myself, I felt no such ominous presence here. It is a bit isolated from the rest of the world, but I wouldn’t call it creepy or anything like that. Of course there was plenty of liter and vandalism around, but that just comes with the territory. It is kind of a hidden gem, and the hike in is very much worth it. Being able to explore this place after a two mile walk is a nice treat. Especially after a very long winter of being stuck inside all the time. It just goes to show you that you never know what lies off the beaten path. The woods keep many secrets from us. And it’s good to see that old places like the abandoned Rutland Prison Camp still survive. People may have suffered there a hundred years ago, but we are all able to enjoy it today. Happy Hunting.

Winter is Coming

The Abandoned Rocky Hill Quarry

Written by: Cobra

Photographs by: Lassie

Winter is coming. The leaves have fallen from the trees. The temperature has dropped. It started snowing on my ride into the studio this morning, which I was totally not expecting. If you’re not familiar with it, New England’s winter can be unpredictable and unforgiving. One day it will be beautiful, the next it will be brutal. Plus with the chaos of the holiday season fast approaching, things usually slow down for us a bit here at Abandoned Wonders. Winter is just not a great time for exploring. So we decided to get one last big adventure in before the outdoor season comes to an end. And what better place than the abandoned Rocky Hill Quarry?

Located in the nearby Rocky Hill, Connecticut, Quarry Park was a place I had never heard of. Credit to this find actually goes to onlyinyourstate.com, which is an excellent place to find fun hikes and places to visit. They recently included this park in one of their articles,  and being so close to us, we naturally had to go check it out. For years, Rocky Hill Quarry was a large and profitable business. But times change. Following the closure of the quarry in the 1950’s, the land was eventually rechristened as Quarry Park. With an excellent view of the town and a nice two-mile hike, it is well worth a visit. But it is what’s left of the old quarry that make this place interesting.

The first item to greet you on the walk are the ruins of what is identified on the map as a 1936 Buick, which is now only a rusted hunk of metal. Much further down the line, off a side trail, is what we believe is called The Cave. A short, but rather steep, climb up the rock face will bring you to the first real signs of the abandoned quarry. A few pieces of old machinery rot into the earth, but an old tunnel runs into the side of the cliff. Inside is just one large empty room. Though it is clearly frequented by someone given the contents we found inside. And, much like most stops on this trip, everything was coated in colorful graffiti.

A bit farther down the trail are what remains of the old compressor house and machinery. At quick glance, this place looked very much like some old ancient ruins. With its large stone pillars and intricate design, it makes for a very interesting sight. The layers of vibrant graffiti almost breathe new life into these old structures. The compressor house itself is large and open inside, with a big window in the middle of the ceiling. Many of its old items (including a door, mattress, tools, and a lawnmower) lie strewn about outside it. All kinds of old metal and rocks coat the ground, so always watch your step.

If this is the last place we get to visit this season, I will not be disappointed. The abandoned Rocky Hill Quarry is more than worth a look. Despite the cold, it was a really nice hike and we were able to get some excellent photographs. It is a very unique place, reminding me very much of Fort Wetherill in Rhode Island. Here massive stone structures are a relic from another era, that show no signs of breaking down. And the colorful coat of graffiti makes what should be a dreary place into a far more fascinating one. So if you have time, definitely consider visiting this one sometime soon. After all, winter is coming.

None Shall Pass

The Abandoned Boardman Bridge

Written by: Cobra

Photographs by: Lassie

We take a two night vacation every October to celebrate our anniversary. Sometimes we coordinate our trips to visit abandoned places. For example, one year we stayed two nights in Newport, RI, and explored Fort Wetherill and Fort Mansfield. Other times, we just randomly stumble upon abandoned places. Like last year, we just happened to pass by the abandoned Hogback Mountain Ski Area while vacationing in Vermont. This was our seventh year anniversary trip, and we didn’t have any specific locations we planned to visit. We were just planning on spending a nice few days up in the mountains of Western Connecticut. But much like last year, fate had other plans.

This is the abandoned Boardman Bridge in New Milford, CT. We’ve explored many abandoned bridges in our time, but this one was different. First opening in the late 1800’s, the Boardman Bridge ferried all kinds of traffic across the roaring currents of the Housatonic River. But almost exactly one hundred years since she first started service, a newer, larger, and more modern bridge was built directly beside her. Ironically, this new bridge was also named the Boardman Bridge. And so this old workhorse became dubbed the “Old Boardman Bridge.” She carried on for a short while longer, serving only as a pedestrian bridge, before finally being closed for good in 1984.

Whilst driving through the countryside of New Milford, CT, we came across the abandoned Boardman Bridge. With the grey skies and the gloomy October weather, we just had to stop and take pictures. For being closed since long before either of us were even born, the old bridge is in remarkably good condition. It came as no surprise to us that the town of New Milford is in fact seeking to repair and reopen the old bridge as a pedestrian/cyclist path to connect two neighboring hiking trails. The Old Boardman Bridge may be old, but she still definitely has some fight left in her. Hopefully, someday soon, she will once again find a way to serve her community.